UMD Reads The Righteous Mind

A blog for and about the 2013 UMD First Year Book Project

Morality is a Team Sport: To Join or Not To Join

Hi Everyone!  My name is Rachel Kulick and I am a professor in sociology at UMass Dartmouth.   This is my first year participating in the summer reading blog and it has been fascinating to read your insights and inquiries about the Righteous Mind.  As incoming first year students, you are about to embark on an adventure, university life, a new experience with a wide range of potential opportunities to become a part of a larger social fabric.   It is often through new experiences, new communities that we are poised to explore and challenge our existing ideas and values, and perhaps develop a few new ones.

In sociology, we talk a great deal about socialization – how we influence and how we are influenced by our social worlds.   How do we learn how to interact in our social worlds? To a large extent, we look to social norms within our everyday lives to shape our identities and actions.  We learn about norms and social conventions in many different arenas of our lives including family, school, peer relations, media, and the list goes on.  These norms vary depending on whether we are alone or in a group; online or offline; at home, at work, in school, or hanging out with friends; and so forth.  Our social location including social forces such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, social class, education, religion, nationality, age, etc. also influence how our identities form and evolve.  I believe that this socialization process of defining and redefining our identities is an ongoing project throughout life.  Our identities begin to develop in childhood but it is never a completed project.  It could be said that entering university is a pivotal point in this socialization process.

Haidt provides us with some interesting insights about this socialization process in chapter 11, “Religion is a Team Sport.”   Haidt uses the example of religion, to explore how religion provides individuals with a sense of community: “If you live in a religious community, you are enmeshed in a set of norms, relationships, and institutions that work primarily on the elephant to influence your behavior.  But if you are an atheist living in a looser community with a less binding moral matrix, you might have to rely somewhat more on an internal compass, read by the rider.” (313).   In other words, religious life contributes to our elephant mentality – our sense of trust and cohesion while atheist life contributes to our rider – our reliance on reasoning and rationalism.

While religion is one example of community, there are many different communities that can contribute to how we make sense of our worlds.  As you reflect on your generation and your experiences of childhood and adolescence, how have differing communities (school, family, religion, media, peer relations, etc.) or social forces (gender, race, sexuality, social class, etc.) influenced you and your generation?  Which experiences stand out as ones that have significantly contributed to your identity? What kinds of communities do you hope to join or perhaps create at UMass Dartmouth?


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242 thoughts on “Morality is a Team Sport: To Join or Not To Join

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  1. Quinton Hawkins on said:

    I also agree the media influences out generation a ton. The media dictates how people feel,think, act about an issue or any part of cultural. Take Kony 2012 people got all into an issue because the media made it an issue and got people to care and it became a cultural statement. Even though Kony was around before 2012 and is still at large. The media made people feel a strong need to help and forced people into action.

    • Nolan Gaffey on said:

      I completely agree with you Quinton. the media brings out what people would want to see and make them have an opinion with them having little knowledge on what is really going on. They manipulate people into thinking about something even if its not the whole story.

  2. Nenita Hiller on said:

    Like any individual, I am a part of several communities which have influenced my personality and my sense of morality. My school community had a significant influence on me which makes sense seeing as I have been a part of it for 12 years, though it has changed over time. Being in school brought me into a community where you couldn’t stand out significantly without social ramifications. Freshman year of highschool I liked to carry bulky and heavy books on my head because it was convenient. Two weeks after I started I had to stop because of all the talk going on behind my back. Other situations, even in my younger years, told me it was best to go with the flow and do as others did. To stand out was to be ostracized. At the same time, school taught me social tact; what not to mention, what not to say, and what not to do. It also taught me how to get along with others with different moralities and personalities. Sometimes it was best to tone down my own individuality in order to cooperate with others. I think that most people who go through school get this sort of experience in some manner. Some other people in my generation might value individuality less (which is not necessarily a bad thing), favoring the more hivish feeling of having a more acceptable dress or behavior. Either way, I think school is a great enforcer of social norms.

    However, the community which has probably made the most impact on me and my moral identity is the Tumblr community. Tumblr tends to be my favored social media site, Facebook coming in second. Often its where I find funny pictures, artwork, and news. In my section of Tumblr, social justice is also a rather big thing. Though I don’t agree with absolutely all of it, it has certainly shifted my perspective of the world and educated me on topics I barely had personal experience with. It acquainted me with Feminism, Racism, Homophobia, Transphobia. It shed light on topics I had only seen in the corner of my eye. Now I feel a lot more informed, and it is easier for my rider to point out injustices that had previously struck a nameless wrong chord with my elephant. My elephant generally became more sensitive as well. Outside of Tumblr, I often have to remind myself that not everyone has had the exposure I have experienced. I generally hold my temper and try not to be too quick to offend. I hope that I can help try to educate others without their elephants leaning away, and it is my goal to spread the knowledge. I know that being abrasive about it will not help my case however. I’m actually hoping to be a part of the Center for Woman, Gender & Sexuality here at UMass Dartmouth where the moral matrix is much more likely to match up with my own, and where I can possibly influence the UMass Dartmouth community in general. I want to create a more aware and kinder community more accepting of differences while still maintaining a greater sense of community.

  3. I strongly believe that our generation is greatly influenced by social media..Most people tend to do what they hear on the internet or see on facebook ar twitter. I have personally caught myself doind this. I also think that the community in which we live influences us.For instance i grew up in a christian community so doing anything contrary to what i was thought was right makes me feel bad.

  4. Roseli Rodriguez on said:

    Different communities and social forces tend to form the people we are today which is most often influenced by media. It is more likely that if you live in a diverse area you might observe many different events that occur between the families. This can either become a blessing or a burden with. Observing or coming from diverse areas can ultimately change your views on the varieties of races, either creating friendship or hatred which leads to racism. People tend to go by what they see and hear about certain types of people. People tend to stick with those that they know. If you’re in the high class, you hang out with high class people. Most humans don’t like change and would rather stay comfortable.
    I believe that racism has altered my views. Seeing the hatred that occurs between people is astonishing, changing me to be the person I am, accepting everybody. My views change to the bully and the victim views where you see the high class mistreating the lower classes or the minorities. We are all people, one in the same underneath and I believe that people shouldn’t be treated unfairly because of skin tone or color. At UMass Dartmouth I hope to create a place where in my world everyone is treated properly and fairly including everyone that surrounds me.

  5. Matthew Petrelli on said:

    I feel that the biggest experience that has contributed to my identity is my faith. Being an Orthodox Christian has given me a little different perspective of the world. I feel it has shown me how to be a leader, taught me to respect others, and to try to show love even to those who may not show it to you. I have my beliefs which my faith has shown me and I don’t plan on changing them anytime soon. This doesn’t mean I am ignorant to others beliefs, in fact that’s the last thing we should do. As I said I have been taught to respect others, but that does not mean I will change my beliefs that I stand for just to try and please those with different beliefs. I hope to find others who have these same beliefs at UMass Dartmouth and that we can help to make it a better place together.

  6. Nic Zanghi on said:

    Social media has a huge impact on the lives of younger people as well as their friends in general. People tend to act more like their friends in order to fit in more. This extends through social media by how kids seem to follow whats trendy and what everyone is doing. Most people just want to fit in and they will adapt to what other people their age do.

  7. Jayuanna Harris on said:

    I also agree that technology and the media play a huge part in influencing our generation because everyone seems to be “tech-savvy” these days. People tend to create an almost exact replica of what they see people in magazines wear. They try to look as “perfect” as those people look and it impacts their life and somewhat puts a weight on them because their trying to perfect their image. Everything we need is literally at our reach with the push of a button. A community I anticipate to join will be the athletic community; play sports and join anything that’s fun, social and exciting.

  8. Vinicius Barreiros on said:

    Like most people said I do agree that social media has taken over our lives. Everything we do involves some sort of social network, such as Facebook, Twitter etc… I don’t necessarily think that social networks are a problem because this is what we were introduced to for quite some time. However since it will become a major way of communication for the next generation it will have some problems. The next generation will spend so much time on social networks that it’ll actually make them very unsocial and socially awkward.

  9. Gabriel Ferreira on said:

    Social media or the online community is something that has shaped our generation. Social media has allowed people to keep in touch making distance not an issue for creating a community. You can have whole online communities and share ideas influences and relationships through the internet. I have had had the pleasure of being part of many different types of communities. The one that impacted me the most as a person I believe was my high school. I went to a small charter school, my class was made up of 56 people. These people came from all around Massachusetts, leaving their local high schools in search of a new start or a challenge. Because we were all misfits coming together in such a small class we all had to learn to be more sensitive to each others backgrounds.

  10. Hayden O'Brien on said:

    I believe social media impacts us in a negative manner because it teaches newer generations how to interact with each other when not in person. Because of this, people believe themselves invincible over the internet. Just because nobody knows who you are when you post on YouTube doesn’t mean you have the right to demean others or believe yourself superior to them. Social media also has an impact on individuals. It has become a daily routine to check Twitter than Facebook than Instagram to see what everyone else is doing. This routine is partly to keep in touch and up to date with your friends and family. But it also creates a vulnerability in that our elephants are more subject to guidance from our riders. Our automatic processes (elephant) is thrown into direction from initial thoughts. But with social media clouding our emotions, our riders have more time to influence our elephants, therefore forcing us to convince ourselves of what we want to believe rather than what really happens.

  11. joseph soricelli on said:

    Social media has changed our lives today more than people realize. We are always on our phones checking social media sites often. We depend on smart devices for entertainment and it has replaced face to face conversations.

  12. Marshall Conklin on said:

    It’s obvious that social media and advances in technology have changed America forever. Our generation is most affected only because we have been brought up with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. With these technological advances, however, we’ve let go some important parts of American culture that our fathers and grand fathers enjoyed such as going to church every Sunday or talking over the phone versus texting. Peer relations are becoming easier because everyone has info on websites that connect people to you so you don’t have to meet face to face. We’ve also grown up being taught to not discriminate against anyone, which is important to point out. At school I think it’s important to become part of a community that’s friendly and uplifting as well as balance reason with passion in order to be successful

  13. Rebecca Warner on said:

    I personally think that family and media influence this generation. From Day 1 you’re surrounded by your family (mostly immediate family like your parents), including their thoughts and their environment. Most people grow up agreeing with whatever their parent’s think – whether it be about religion, or politics, or race, etc. For example, if you’re parents are totally into being Democrats, you’ll most likely become one too – same goes for Republicans. However this isn’t always true, but a majority of the time it is. Also, media/technology has definitely taken over this generation. We always have our smartphones on hand, never going anywhere without them. We text each other so much, that when we’re face to face, we feel awkward and can’t even start a conversation. How are we supposed to find who we are and what group of friends we belong with when we’re too busy hiding behind the screen of a computer? We’re at college now, so it’s definitely easier to begin to form your own opinions that are different from your parents opinions. Technology, however, will follow us no matter where we go.

  14. Emily Crandell on said:

    Being raised Jewish, I’ve been persuaded by my parents, siblings and religious leaders to live life a certain way. As I’ve grown, I’ve developed a sense of freedom when it comes to decision making. Being a legal adult, I feel that I have the power to create my own morals and values based on what I feel is wrong or right. Most young people are not given a choice whether or not to be religious so they are more likely to stay religious as they age. Although that is not always the case, I believe that we would have less religious people if they were given the option to be a part of a religion at a young age. It is beneficial to be a part of a group of people that share the same values as you. I hope to participate in sports and other clubs during my time here at UMass Dartmouth.

  15. Matthew St.Pierre on said:

    You are affected by people around you all the time because you pick up on certain things everyone does, norms. One also learn new things throughout a life of experiences and can change themselves to fit what they find most admirable. Mostly from what you’ve learned and seen other people do.

    To comment on the social networking piece. Even if you believe you are no longer impressionable and you are your own person who has figured out who you want to be, facebook most certainly can still affect your social views whether it is noticeable or subconscious, positive or negative and whether you agree with something or not.

  16. Brahma Sharma on said:

    I believe social forces and differing communities have influenced my generation greatly. Music is a great example of this, people get different feelings from different music types and grow up listening to or playing that type of music. I believe much has to do with the musical artist itself and how they influence the person listening to it. For example if someone grew up listening to rap they’d probably continue with that if someone grew up in the country they’d probably grow up listening to country music (not always though). Also the way pro athletes or stars do things and live their lives affects how we do growing up. As a kid growing up I was always a fan of Wes Welker and wanted to be just like him and so i would always practice hard during football season, I’d play harder and I’d train even harder for it. Before every game, i’d spat my cleats just like he did during his games I would do touchdown celebrations just like he did and so you could say he greatly influenced me as a kid. I wanted to be like hi, live a life like that and get payed good money like he does. Trying to be like him during high school football is an experience that has significantly contributed to my identity now as a college football player as I work hard now also. That is how I believe social forces or differing communities can influence people. its what you bring yourself up to e like just like Haidt says in the book people should raise themselves by seeing what harms them and what they dont think is harmful.

  17. Zachary Marc-Aurele on said:

    Certain people may use social media as a substitute for a social life but there are also others who use it to widen their sphere of interaction and to share ideas with people. Technology is greatly beneficial to those who use it as a tool to improve productivity and add ease to life but crippling to those who cling to it.

  18. Deborah Salami on said:

    I agree with the point that social media, has been having a greater impact on people’s more than before. People see social media as an advantage to appear as what they are not due to many circumstances. Although, social media is an effective way of communication many take advantage of it. Truly, our generation is privileged to live in a society where technology makes life much easier but also causes for people to miss out on certain interactions and situations that come naturally. There’s a low percentage of toys sold due to the technology out now,which occupies both the young and old.

  19. Wayne Bracy on said:

    As a second generation Christian because of my parents, I contribute that as a major comtributer to who I have become. Because of which I plan to join the Christian association on campus.

  20. Shannon O'Brien on said:

    When it comes to how we are shaped as individuals, the people that surround us or ones we look up to leave an impression that you may go about for the rest of your life. It doesn’t matter what the norms are of a society you grew up in, what you did normally there makes up your sense or moral. But as time passes you may meet new people and start hanging out with them- whether it is the internet or here in college. Depending on how open minded you are will factor in what morals or norms you follow in the future to come.

  21. Kathleen Tansey on said:

    I agree with most of the previous posts that social media has formed our generation. Social media has brainwashed everybody; especially magazines and tv shows. Tv shows are making it look like its okay to act dumb and slutty to get attention. Magazines are contributing by editing pictures to the degree that people think that have to be super model skinny for their bodies to be accepted. Social media has been putting down peoples self esteem for a couple years left.

  22. I personally lean toward the views of empiricists. I believe that who raises a child, and what a child is associated with throughout their lives affect who thy end up becoming.

    • Kevin A Sanchez on said:

      Yeah well of course it does but what we have to look at it is how they create social norms for society and especially children. Kids watch all sorts of shows these days and whatever they perceive to be as cool or the most popular thing to do because they see maybe a favorite character doing, they will want to do it as well. This instills a sense of lust to belong and to feel important with kids.

  23. I agree that social media impacts the lives of everyone especially the lives of the younger generation. without social media the younger generation feels lost and disconnected from the world. Social media controls our lives and people can’t seem to live with out it.

  24. Social media seems to dominate the new generation. We usually follow what people say on facebook, twitter, or other websites, tv shows, etc. It controls everything we do

  25. Jarrod Stokes on said:

    social media has certainly impacted our generation and I think it has yet to be determined if this is a positive or negative change. Some people can’t go a few hours without tweeting or checking their phone. I have never experience this social media depravation and social media dependence is setting our generation up for failure. We as a whole are slowly loosing person to person communication skills and when our generation trys to enter the work force it will be tougher for those who rely heavily on social media to communicate with others.

  26. Matthew Lloyd on said:

    I agree with everyone’s opinion in this blog, yet I also believe that everything in the world helps influence people’s identity. I believe this because everyone has the power, and capable of adapting to every single environment they are thrown into that’s how we are able to survive.

  27. Katherine on said:

    Going to Catholic school my whole life really shaped part of me. This experience really stands out in my mind as to what really contributed to parts of me. My generation I believe is exposed to so much especially from the media. I feel like that the media has a lot of say in how teens perceive themselves and others.

  28. I agree that the media plays a major role in this generation because now a days it is what people use to guide them throw their daily life. Checking your Facebook or instagram has become part of many youth morning routine it is because 2of the media why we “look up” to celebrities and mimic everyone they do.

  29. Ting Hung Lin on said:

    In my opinion a person’s morality, while influenced by his surroundings are still something the person decides upon by himself. I think that while everything we do is influenced to some degree by our surrounding, ultimately who we are and what we believe in are decisions we make based on our experiences, the way we think, our level of sanity (for example sociopaths just don’t give a ship), etc. Cultural morality is usually different based on how much exposure someone has to their own and other cultures, but I think the most basic morality of good vs. evil is something is something a person would consistently have even if he was born in a different surrounding. All over the world, cultures that have never even come into contact with each other have set similar laws regarding basic morality. Laws and social norms such as no murder, no theft, slander, corruption, respecting elders are some of the most common. Although the people who set these laws/norms have never met, they have a similar understanding of basic good vs. evil. People’s moralities are designed to protect themselves and those they love from harm. No one wants to die, no one wants to get hurt, no one wants someone to steal their stuff, people want to be taken care of when their older, etc. Thus people will perceive those whose actions or interests conflict with the idea as evil and bad. Our moralities influence our surroundings more than our surroundings influence our morality.

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